A Definition of Complementary Medicine

Horses are one of two species with a skeletal structure that enables direct propulsion forward from the hindquarters.

Last night we attended a talk by Dr. Tim Holt of Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  The talk was put on by the Northern Colorado Draft Horse Association and was billed as a discussion of equine chiropractic and acupuncture.  Paul Pack, president of the association, said that his goal in hosting speakers like Dr. Holt is to bring draft horses into the twenty-first century so that they can give more to their work because we take their needs and comfort into account.  A previous talk was on bits and bitting, and a few audience members testified to the improved performance they were seeing in their horses after implementing some of the suggestions they learned.

Dr. Holt’s stated purpose was to teach us why complementary medicine works.  He explained in very simple terms how pain is perceived by the brain.  There is the direct nerve route and then an inhibitor nerve that reduces pain communication through that direct route.  Dr. Holt then defined complementary medicine as techniques that enhance the inhibitor nerves so that pain communication to the brain is reduced.  Dr. Holt is versed in chiropractic and acupuncture, and his love, he stated, is figuring out the science behind why these things work.  Here is a link to Dr. Holt teaching chiropractic maneuvers on a horse:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSOzZa9k-uc .

For a Saturday night lecture, Dr. Holt was incredibly entertaining, weaving magic tricks into his lecture and getting us all to laugh heartily.  From an educational standpoint I especially appreciated the bones that he brought to show us.  In particular he showed us arthritic joints.  I was personally fascinated by the pelvis and sacrum and how they connect together.  Dr. Holt explained that horses are one of only two species that have a structure that allows for propulsion from the hindend directly forward.  (The other species is the rhinoceros.)  I wish I’d taken a photograph, as the pictures I just looked at on line don’t illustrate the concept nearly as well.  This obviously is what helps make horses such great draft animals.  I can tell that a visit to the vet teaching hospital is in order in the future to further study the skeleton of the horse.

While I think complementary medicine has a broader role to play than just enhancing the function of the inhibitor nerves, I was nonetheless thrilled to learn that a man of Dr. Holt’s interests is employed by the Veterinary Teaching Hospital here.  One of his students connected him with the Draft Horse Association, and I look forward to following her journey in vet school.

© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012

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About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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